The Demos are a New York indie pop/power pop duo whose work, in principle, should be very appealing. They often know their way around a three minute song and have some great 70s/80s power pop influences, but from early listens, it’s obvious where their work is deficient: in keeping with their name, the songs here have a slightly DIY feel as opposed to a finished, lavish work. We’re not talking the Robert Pollard/Guided By Voices “amps and a tape-deck” approach here, obviously, but for a power pop band, The Demos lack the necessary professional shine. This has a great deal to do with the presence of elements which sound pre-programmed (particularly on lots of drum parts), which, in the long run, tends to make everything feel a bit flat.
Audio issues aside, there are a few songs featured on ‘Lovely’ which really stand out. ‘Can’t Win Me Over’ has a strong Ben Kweller influence and simple chiming guitar chords, but within its power pop grooves there’s something a little more indie rock at play. Similarly, ‘Tell Me How It Feels’ is potentially great, with its melodic guitar lines, kitschy keyboards and a tune which, in places, is reminiscent of Boston band The Russians. It provides a great insight into what The Demos can do when completely focused; it’s just a shame about the biscuit tin drum sound, which naturally provides a weak element. It’s a number begging to be spruced up by the superb Justin Kline.
‘My City’ features some solid harmonies and a mid-paced arrangement, which overall provides another example of The Demos at their best. While the rhythm guitars are simple, beneath the jangle, there are occasional hints of a ringing lead and twin vocals which are given an extra boost by a female backing. The track barely breaks from its original riff, but doesn’t need any embellishment or anything complex added; at just over two-and-a-half minutes, it’s holds the attention well enough. Another mid-paced number, ‘I Need It’, has a strong 70s vibe which, with a tweak here and there, could be really great. As it stands, it already has a strong vocal line and the tinkling bell keyboard moments are a nice touch. Like other good moments on this album, though, the song is well written but let down by the small budget at The Demos’ disposal.
As mentioned, a few of the songs featured on ‘Lovely’ have the necessary hooks needed to make them stand up, but the fidelity really hampers the end sound. There’s little here that sounds like essential listening, but repeated listens show a couple of songs to be great. It’s a shame The Demos didn’t have the huge budget to give those tunes the kind of send off they deserved.